Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 9, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 145 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Cammila Collar

Beautiful but boring, Memoirs of a Geisha is worth watching once for the sake of its rich imagery alone. Unfortunately, without a well-paced narrative or particularly compelling story, its allure is only skin deep. While many literary adaptations suffer from a lack of focus and become chaotic in an attempt to include shallow bits from every vein and subplot in the book, Geisha succeeds in paring down its basic storyline into a fairly coherent and uncomplicated idea. Sadly, the filmmakers fail to provide insight into the inner life or emotional struggle of the main character, Saiyuri, and this is the element that would have given this story some meaning. The events of the film are clear enough and the audience is rarely confused about what is happening, but so is it rarely inspired to care. Despite some use of the protagonist's inner monologue, the audience is left too often on the outside of Saiyuri's most defining experiences: her climb to geisha stardom, her bitter rivalry with geisha Hatsumomo, and her intense love for a man known as The Chairman. Even when her virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder as a means to raise her notoriety, we aren't sure how she feels about this, if indeed she feels anything at all. The ornate sets and costumes depict pre and postwar Japan with glorious meticulousness and even the movements of the men and women of this time and place are all perfectly sculpted to the period. If only the external lives of its characters alone were enough, Memoirs of a Geisha would be a great film indeed.